So Dac, and a pretty gentle Dac at that, so what more is there to say? As good as always, as fair and enjoyable as ever, no vocabulary or constructions for the most part that should throw anyone. I say for the most part because 27ac is a little tricky both in the definition and wordplay, but most solvers will have just lobbed it in as I did because it was unlikely to be anything else. First in 9ac, last in 16d, overall time about half par for the i.

COD? 10ac – “Student leaders (American) linked to pro-Democrat city in Connecticut”.

To the distant days of March 2015:

Radian on a Tuesday, so there simply has to be a gimmick. I couldn’t see it though, so a warm “thank you” to Anna over at Fifteensquared who could, and spilled the beans in comment no. 6. Thus giving me an opportunity to select a picture link which is, in my opinion, well wicked. As hip young people used to say, once upon a time.

In terms of difficulty RatkojaRiku thought this was about average for Radian, but it seemed stiffer than his usual to me. Most unusually for this setter 9ac got a :-/, my pictogram for “steady on, old boy”. 22ac is a pretty uncommon word, but otherwise it’s the clues rather than the vocabulary that made this a satisfyingly chewy puzzle, which scored an impressive tally of ticks. Once again Radian has made selecting a clue of the day tricky because there’s no shortage of candidates, all more or less level pegging. Plaudits therefore to 1ac, 4, 7, 12, 15, 18 … and so forth. Further nominations are invited. The winner is 7d, mostly for its very pleasing surface:

“I love bananas in crude fruit juice (5.3)”

A puzzle about which I find myself with little to say, but in a good way, because while this may be lighter by far than last week’s offering, it’s one I felt a lot more comfortable solving being a bear of very little brain.

So, plus points on the confidence front: Isn’t Opsimath usually straightforward? Normal, alphabetical clues.

On the negative side: We don’t know where to put the answers. Oh well, we’re doing rather well at that sort of thing recently, aren’t we?

Further plus points: Cold solving the first five clues in a row with hardly a moment of hesitation. At the close three of the nine letter clues and three of the eight all ready to go – PROCURERS, PETIT PAIN, SANDGLASS, ALPHABET –  fittingly, EQUITANT, and TAVERNER.

Lob them in. Start fitting in the other clues. Only belatedly realise it would be a good idea to cross out the ones you’ve entered. A little tussle at the close over exactly where BULL should go (a sneaky BELL just above, and yes I did get it wrong first time).

Full grid.

Pick out the letters in the numbered cells: The great emancipator.

Which are real words, another plus point, the grid’s alright, but unfortunately doesn’t mean anything. Google to the rescue. Ah, good old Abraham Lincoln.

A “famous stated preference”? No idea either, but we’ve got to change two cells and highlight his name, and that can only be done by changing BULL to BALL and ETHER to OTHER, or BULLET to BALLOT.

“To give victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary…”

That title? According to the BRB it means “Freedom-giving”. There you go then.

Neat. Enjoyable. Done and dusted in a pretty neat time too. Huzzah. Short and sweet, but I liked it, oh yes I did.

To Monday’s puzzle proper, and the Don with a relatively gentle accompaniment to Klingsor’s offering. The soup went in following a glance at the definition, length, and first letter, and the troublemaker at 20ac was one I’d forgotten, but elsewhere it was only 5d that I sort of remembered but wanted to be something HAMLET that caused any difficulty. A new word at 7d for some of us, but one that was entirely logical, and it’s Quixote so of course there’s at least one new word. First in a bit of a panicky 12ac (is this going to be more difficult than I’d assumed?), last in 1ac, finish time well under par for the i.

COD? With much to enjoy as ever, 13ac – “What may be exemplified by lives now under strain (7,5)”.

To March 2015:

So, due to Friday’s “production error”, more commonly known as a cock-up, we have a bumper day for cryptics in today’s i. Klingsor’s offering is a Thursday reprint, and scheduled for the end of the week, so as expected it’s a little on the tough side, but thoroughly enjoyable throughout it must be said. Several obscurities in the grid slowed me down somewhat – the amusingly named SACKBUT for starters, and an instrument of an entirely different kind at 17d that could have ended LABE or BALE as far as I was concerned so required a dictionary check. Well done if you were aware of it. The badger I sort of knew, ditto the river and the French city, the source of oil I didn’t, but what else could it be? I solved today’s Quixote first, figuring it was the Monday puzzle proper, so perhaps I wasn’t as sharp as I might have been, but I finished this in a comparatively slow time for Klingsor, and definitely so for the i.

Lots to like, with ticks beside 13ac, 27ac, and 23ac (and I could go on at length – yes, this was a good puzzle!), with COD going to 25ac – “Embarrassed? I lost twice to a kid!”.

To February 2015 for the answers and parsing of the clues:

Saturday 8th June 2019

It’s Phi, it’s a grid with unches round the outside, so there just has to be a theme or Nina. But where? Not in the clues or those peripheral unches, so are there some letter patterns perhaps? Hidden words? Or a ghost theme maybe?… No, it turns out – as I found out only by reading the comments over at Fifteensquared – that there actually is a peripheral Nina; RILIATUBULGREATTPHONJERAKEENBE gives us the four elephants that support Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Of course!

The fact that I put in Knee rather than Keen at 24d made absolutely no difference to my non-spotting of that one. Shame about that clue really, it had been one of my five tickers.

Other tricky bits included OG clued as ‘regress, as it were’ in 17a, the wordplay in 4d ‘as 20 concludes’ which referred to the clue not the entry,  some obscure answers like 28a, some gobbledygook surfaces as in 14a, some demanding brandy knowledge at 29a, fully 10 of Phi’s fiendish 4-letterers, and an extraordinarily long clue for 15d – is 5 lines a record?

Despite all that I found it an absorbing, beguiling, if ultimately frustrating experience; the more convoluted it got, the more I thought to myself: ‘This had better be worth it’. Yet I couldn’t spot those elephants so perhaps it wasn’t. If you did, then maybe it was for you.

COD 17a Pet project initially adopted by fellow to regress, as it were (6)

Hmm this seems familiar. Digital version is the same so its try one from Alchemi’s web site or maybe The Guardian.

COD  Still 30ac


Was I the only person to assume this was an IoS reprint? OK, we had a couple of unknowns in the answers – 17d and 24d in my case – but both were as fairly clued as everything else in the puzzle leaving little or no doubt as to the outcome. I solved clockwise from NW to NE with half an ear on a workplace presentation and still finished in a time well under par for the i, so I suspect some will have flown through. And there’s little more to say than that – a very good puzzle, enjoyed, and a definitely worthy but surprising pick for the Saturday Independent Prize Puzzle spot.

COD? Lots to appreciate, including the Spoonerism, but 30ac gets my vote just for the Hitchhiker’s reference – “Keen galactic hitchhiker losing a day (6)”.

To the no doubt equally cold and wet days of February / March 2015:

Mid-week and no Dac but Punk instead with an offering that was as lively and enjoyable as you’d expect. A little trickier than is par for a Wednesday perhaps, but relatively gentle still. The puzzle did play to my weaknesses somewhat – a football team I’d sort of heard of, a camel I was also vaguely aware of, and a name for a wellington boot that was new but is gettable and not that far out there. I did question on solving whether a knob is really a switch, but got the idea so no complaints. Elsewhere the definition at 1d seems to be somewhat awry. Lots of long friendly clues to get the grid filled, Uncle Joe and the sizzler in particular being helpful. There’s some debate over on the other side about the parsing of 23ac, but the comments I think have it.

COD? Just because it’s such an amazing feat of engineering, 14/22 – “Fergie, heading for United game, beginning to observe gutless footy held together by idiot (7,2,4)”.

To February 2015:

Scorpion, so that ought to suit me nicely then. Indeed I am a happy customer today for the most part, although this puzzle is a little odd. Anyway, it’s a pangram with a theme, and an impressive example of the compiler’s art all told.

The consensus over at Fifteensquared back in February 2015 was that this was a tough nut to crack. This might have something to do with it being published on a Monday when we traditionally expect to be treated gently, but it seems about par for the Tuesday course to me – and besides when you see Scorpion’s name by the crossword you might as well make yourself comfortable. Steady progress in my case following a generally clockwise course from NE to NW, reflecting the rather disjointed nature of the grid. There’s some rather nasty 3/7 underchecking which doesn’t help much with the four-puzzles-in-one effect.

There are some peculiar entries. 13ac is too downmarket for my taste and 27ac rather recondite, but both are fairly clued; 7 and 16d are, I suppose, the sort of thing you wind up with when filling a grid with a double gimmick. Didn’t much care for those. Otherwise it’s the sort of inventive, puckish blend which makes this setter a firm favourite. Today’s clues of note included 1d and 15 and 20ac: I’m sorely tempted to pick the latter as my COD but it’s pipped at the post by the delightfully baffling forehead-slapper at 26ac:

“Old brass name seen on bog discovered in gorge (7)”